Yayoi Kusama: from Happenings to Louis Vuitton

Yayoi Kusama, an artist that has been around since the 50’s although her spotlight in the last five decades has been on an off. Now with a retrospective at the Whitney and a collaboration with Louis Vuitton the spotlight is hers once again.

While her patterns may have a very graphic aesthetic easily applicable to commercial ventures, they come to her from a very personal place.  She has said that she suffers from daytime hallucinations and her psychadelic patterns are a representation of what she sees.

“When I was a child, one day I was walking in the field, then all of a sudden, the sky became bright over the mountains, and I saw clearly the very image I was about to paint appear in the sky. I also saw violets which I was painting myltiply to cover the doors, windows and even my body, It was then that I learned the idea of self-obliteration. I immediately transferred the idea onto canvas. It was a hallucination only the mentally ill can experience.” -Damien Hirst questions Yayoi Kusama: Across the Water 1998.

She has chanelled her condition through her artwork, she started making large canvases of patterns in the 50’s and in the following 2 decades moved on to covering various objects and later entire installations, including herself with polkadots in various patterns. Her hallucinogenic vision is unmistakable and her physical person is as much part of the work as the patterns themselves.

Moving to New York in the late 50’s, she quickly established herself with the avant-garde movement and created and participated in various “happenings” and art shows around the city. Although not very profitable financially, her art practice took her to the Venice Biennale in 1966 where she represented Japan and created “Narcissus Garden” an installation on the lawn of hundreds of mirrored spheres and herself in a golden kimono.

In the early 70’s Kusama returned to Japan and checked herself in a psychiatric hospital where she has lived since, all the while working (her studio is a short distance from there.) and having her work exhibited at the biggest art institutions worldwide, participating in the Whitney Biennale, having retrospectives  as well as collaborating with various brands.

Now Marc Jacobs known for his collaborations with artists as the creative director for Louis Vuitton has invited her to create a collection for the brand. It is not Kusama’s first foray into fashion, she had a project in Bloomingdales in the late 60’s where she sold clothes under the Kusama Fashion Company Ltd.


After 5 decades, her style has proven to be timeless and her work is still very much relevant today.

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